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October's DVD reviews

Fancy a night in front of the box? Simon Evans has some great ideas from the latest batch of home entertainment releases


Brokenwood_Memories_DVD_front_cover.The Brokenwood Mysteries: Series 9

(Acorn Media International, DVD)

This excellent New Zealand-set crime series has been running since 2014 and features the unlikely, but winning, pairing of country music fan and deceptively shambolic detective Mike Shepherd (Neil Rea) with quietly efficient fellow detective Kristin Simms (Fern Sutherland). Like the deceptively sleepy village of Midsomer, small-town New Zealand seems to be a hot-bed of criminality, with the team, this series, investigating the electrocution of a local composer, the murder of an all-female motorcycle gang member and the death of a nun.



(BFI, Blu-ray)

Ken Russell’s typical outrageous 1987 film is an origin story of sorts for two staples of Gothic fiction, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and John Polidori’s The Vampyre, with real events – a literary house party hosted by Lord Byron on the shores of Lake Geneva – given a fantastical spin. During the party, held during the summer of 1816, the guests trade ghost stories while a wild storm rages outside, before deciding to liven up the evening with a séance. This proves not to be a good idea.

The starry cast includes Gabriel Byrne, Julian Sands, Natasha Richardson and Timothy Spall and, with a Gothic story tailor-made for him, Russell gives his iconoclastic romanticism full rein. It doesn’t quite come off, but one thing you can say for Russell’s movies, they are never dull.

Extras include an extended interview with Russell from 1987, an interview with Julian Sands, Russell’s 2002 long-form video film The Fall of the Louse of Usher and a 1958 Russell short-film, Amelia and the Angel.



(Dazzler Media, Blu-ray and DVD)

The one surprise about this excellent screen adaptation of George Simenon’s 1954 novel Maigret and the Dead Girl is that Gerard Depardieu has never played this iconically French role before, so easily does he inhabit the role. Like all great actors he doesn’t have to do much to convey emotion and it’s fair to say the 74-year-old is no Daniel Craig – no hair-raising stunts for him; when one character suggests that Maigret looks as though he has been running for a bus you would think even that would be beyond him. It’s a captivating performance though, the centerpiece of an enjoyable film with a plot that hooks you from the start and doesn’t let go.


Short_Sharp_Shocks_DVD_cover.Short Sharp Shocks Volume 3

(BFI, Blu-ray)

This latest raid of the BFI’s extensive vaults has uncovered more weird and wonderful artifacts from the age of the British support film. Often a repository for the eccentric and eerie, these films were sometimes more memorable than the main feature, although made for a fraction of the cost. Delights on offer across two discs include Tony Bicat’s disturbing but effective 1973 Skinflicker, Geoff Lowe’s all-too prescient tech thriller The Terminal Game (1982), Return to Glennascaul, a spooky 1951 tall tale recounted by Orson Welles, and the 1953 Strange Stories, a mini portmanteau chiller featuring Valentine Dyall and John Laurie. There are numerous special features, as always, and an excellent booklet with in-depth background notes on all the films.

Also available:

Valley_Girl_DVD_coverValley Girl (Eureka, Blu-ray), originally released in 1983 and now something of an Eighties period piece, features Nicolas Cage in his first major film role, playing a Hollywood punk drawn, against the odds, to a bratty ‘valley girl’, played by Deborah Foreman…

In Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy (Dazzler Media, DVD) the film star travels across Italy tasting the flavours of the land and the sea, discovering the history, secrets and delights of the country's regional cuisines. And Tucci turns up again, in a rather different guise, in Steven Moffat’s odd but curiously engaging crime thriller, Inside_Man_DVD_cover.Inside Man, also starring David Tennant as a vicar with a dark secret in his cellar. It’s now available on DVD and Blu-ray via Dazzler Media…

Insidious_Red_Door_DVD_coverInsidious: The Red Door (Sony Pictures Entertainment, DVD and Blu-ray) is the final chapter in the creepy horror franchise, bringing the story back up to date after a couple of prequels…

Mrs_Sidhu_Investigates_DVD_coverMeera Syal and Craig Parkinson team up for Mrs Sidhu Investigates (Acorn, DVD) a witty, feel-good crime drama that offers a different take on the mystery format…

After_hours_DVD_front_coverMartin Scorsese’s Kafkaesque cult classic After Hours, which stars Griffin Dunne and Rosanna Arquette in a darkly comic tale of mistaken identity, is now available on Blu-ray as part of the Criterion Collection…



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